About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Dose of Old School Thinking

I am Old School.

I grew up in a small town, Christian neighborhood. I was raised a Christian. I attended a parochial grade school. I was taught by Catholic nuns. One of the lessons they taught me -- no, drilled into my head! -- was a deep, fearful faith in God and an abiding reverence for the Ten Commandments. I'll repeat them here from memory. I shall remember them until my dying breath. If the words are not precise, the gist is.

I. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not put strange gods before Me.
II. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
III. Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath.
IV. Honor thy father and mother.
V. Thou shalt not kill.
VI. Thou shalt not commit adultry.
VII. Thou shalt not steal.
VIII. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
IX. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
X. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods.

Christian or non-Christian, who can deny the wisdom of these Commandments? Can anyone be of the opinion that an individual can live a decent life in society without heeding these basic rules of conduct?

Perhaps an athiest would argue that the first three Commandments are irrelevant. A man can live peacefully in society, be a good neighbor, a virtuous citizen and at the same time be a non-believer. Quite true. I'll concede that point, so long as a man does not use his disbelief in the first three Commandments as a rationale to disregard the last seven.

An individual with corrupt, evil or depraved parents may object to the fourth Commandment with good reason. Why honor individuals who mock and disdain the very rules that command they be honored? I'll concede this argument as well. I believe honor and respect should be earned, not commanded. On the other hand, don't the two individuals who made it possible for the life of another to exist on this earth merit a modicum of recognition for that accomplishment? I think so.

Commandments five through ten relate directly to society and proper behavior within society. Boiled down to their essence, these Commandments order human beings to: 1) Not murder their fellow man; 2) Not steal from their fellow man (or contemplate it); and 3) Not screw around with the spouse of their fellow man (or contemplate it).

I have not only argued that murder, theft and adultry are practices that threaten peaceful cooperation within society, I have also argued that cooperative society is IMPOSSIBLE without mutually understood and obeyed rules against murder and theft. (Adultry is just plain a bad idea for reasons we are probably all too familiar with.)

In short, individuals cooperate in society to achieve ends they cannot acheive, or cannot acheive as efficiently, by acting alone. It is absurd to believe a purposive, rational individual would agree to cooperate with other individuals who have an inherent right to murder him and steal from him. Such absurd rights would contradict the very reason individuals agree to cooperate in the first place.

So, abiding by The Ten Commandments is not only a good idea, but mandatory human behavior if one desires to live in society. As an aside, please note that a cooperative prohibition of murder implies the right to life for all cooperators. Similarly, the prohibition of theft, implies the right to property. This is common sense. You don't have to be Old School to understand the truth of it. It should be obvious to even the harshest critic of some of The Ten Commandments, that abiding by it's prohibitions against murder and theft is the surest way to live at peace with your neighbors in society.

NEXT: Vices, Virtues and Progressivism


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